To San Miguel Corporation: Fossil gas will not make our world better

Consumers, environmental and energy advocacy groups, and communities across the country slammed San Miguel Corporation (SMC) on the day of its Annual Stockholders Meeting for its massive plans for new fossil gas power plants, telling SMC that forcing the burden of more dirty and costly energy on Filipinos goes against its credo for a ‘world made better.’ 

In Mandaluyong City, groups led by the Power for People Coalition (P4P) and Protect VIP trooped to SMC headquarters carrying San Miguel beer cans shaped into a fossil gas plant – noting that SMC is no longer just iconic for its beer, but as the biggest developer of fossil gas in the Philippines and Southeast Asia with over 14 GW new fossil gas capacity it is proposing.

“Building dependence on fossil gas means dependence on imported fuels, exposure to volatile power supply and prices, leaving consumers to the constant threat of rising electricity rates, and vulnerability to geopolitical shocks globally – on top of an already catastrophic climate crisis triggered by fossil fuels. This is the kind of future that SMC is locking us in,” said Gerry Arances, Convenor of P4P.

From a pre-dominantly coal-based power sector, the Philippines is looking to increase its use of fossil gas and LNG – the Department of Energy’s new ‘preferred fuel’. For P4P, Protect VIP, and allied groups, however, fossil gas is no better than coal in terms of affordability, sustainability, or promotion of national energy security.

“As SMC’s stockholders meet today, we wonder if the hardships they bring with their fossil gas projects ever figure in their discussions – or if SMC’s rising revenues are all that matter. As one of the largest conglomerates in the Philippines, SMC has the ability to influence the quality of life of Filipinos. They should be held accountable if they negatively use it to promote detrimental and costly energy,” added Arances.

Dubbed as a ‘clean’ alternative to coal, fossil gas and its supercooled form liquefied natural gas (LNG) is being touted as a ‘transition’ fuel amidst calls for a renewable energy shift in recent years due to global climate targets. While less carbon-intensive than coal, fossil gas and LNG emit methane throughout its value chain, a greenhouse gas with 80 times more heat-trapping capacity than CO2.

“Fossil gas technologies would operate for a minimum number of 25-35 years, effectively stalling the actual development of genuine renewable energy infrastructures in Negros Occidental and other islands, taking the Philippines on a detour away from a real clean energy transition amidst worsening climate impacts,” said Bianca Montilla from Youth for Climate Hope (Y4CH) in Negros Occidental, where SMC is seeking to build a 300 MW LNG plant.

The groups also raised concern over the ecological impacts of SMC’s proposed gas fleet, noting that its project sites are areas host to critical marine and coastal ecosystems. This includes Tanon Strait between Cebu and Negros and the Verde Island Passage in Batangas, a marine corridor known as the ‘Center of the Center’ of marine shore fish biodiversity in the world.

“SMC and other proponents are parading their shift from coal to gas as a shift towards cleaner energy, but the reality is they are merely switching lanes while driving us down the same road of climate and environmental destruction. As a member of the youth of a province set to lose the most from threats of fossil gas to our precious biodiversity, we will continue fighting to protect the Verde Island Passage and ensure a more sustainable future for all of us,” said TJ Alcantara, convenor of ECOSILAK – Youth for VIP, a group belonging to the Protect Verde Island Passage (Protect VIP) network.

A diversified conglomerate, SMC, known more popularly as a local beer brewery and food and beverage company, has LNG plant projects in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The protest in Mandaluyong with P4P, Protect VIP, and faith-based group Living Laudato Si’ was thus held alongside actions led by ECOSILAK – Youth for VIP in Batangas; PALAG Na! in Ozamiz and Davao City in Mindanao; Konsyumer Negros and Youth for Climate Hope in Negros Occidental; SM-ZOTO in Navotas, Freedom from Debt Coalition in Tabango, Leyte; and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, KPML, Sanlakas, and Partido Lakas ng Masa in Cebu.

“We condemn SMC and all its subsidiaries for all of their environmentally destructive projects and pretensions at leading the country’s charge towards a genuine renewable energy pathway. Mindanao already has an unfortunate abundance of coal – would we also be doomed to be tied to fossil gas? If SMC truly is committed to their credo of a ‘world made better’, then we demand better. We call on SMC, its stakeholders, and the government to scrap all fossil gas and LNG power projects,” said PALAG Na! Mindanao.